Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The Birth of Modern Teratology

What follows is an excerpt from a British Review Article on M. Isidore Geoffroy St. Hilaire's General and particular History of Anomalies of Organization in Man and Animals which appeared in The British And Foreign Medical Review (Vol 8, No. 15) July, 1839.

Histoire générale et particulière des Anomalies de l'Organisation chez l'Homme et les Animaux, outrage comprenant des Recherches sur les Caractères, la Classification, etc. des Monstruosités. Par M. Isidore Geoffroy Saint Hilaire, M.D., &c. &c.—Paris, 1832-36. Trois Tomes, avec Atlas. 8vo, pp. 746, 571, 618.

A general and particular History of Anomalies of Organization in Man and Animals, comprising Researches into the Characters, Classification, &c. of Monstrosities. By M. Isidore Geoffroy St. Hilaire, M.dD, &c. &c—Paris, 1832-36. 3 Vols. 8vo, with an Atlas.

Although some years have elapsed since the greater portion of the work before us was published, yet, as no sufficient account of it has hitherto appeared in our language, we think it important that our readers should no longer be deprived of the highly interesting and valuable information it contains, and shall therefore now present them with an analysis of it. In executing our task we shall confine ourselves almost exclusively to the exposition of the author's views; introducing our own opinions but sparingly, even when they are at variance with those maintained in the original treatise. On some future occasion we may take up the whole subject fundamentally; our present object being rather to supply facts than to criticise doctrines.

The object of M. St. Hilaire's work is to give a complete history of the subject of monstrosities: under which name all the various congenital irregularities of form and structure, occasionally met with in man and animals, are generally included. The author has collected together a great number of facts, relating to the different forms and degrees of anomaly, which he has systematically arranged in classes, orders, &c.; and he has afterwards endeavoured to establish the laws and general relations to which all the individual facts may be referred. He has shown how these laws and these relations are themselves only derived from the common laws of organization, and how, among the numerous theories of the formation and growth of animals which have been proposed in modern times, those which are not applicable to anomalous cases are also inapplicable to normal facts in general, and ought to be rejected; and many principles, on the contrary, but slightly established at present by the study of natural facts, find in the phenomena of monstrosities complete elucidation. M. Isidore St. Hilaire has also pointed out that this subject embraces all the conditions of organization in the various classes of organized beings, and that there is scarcely any general fact, auy anatomical or physiological law, on which it does not throw light and either confirm or disprove. Thus the necessary consequence of an exact and profound knowledge of anomalies will be, that the study of normal and abnormal facts, intimately associated together, will lend to each other a mutual and powerful support.

A vast collection of most valuable materials on this subject may be found scattered through various publications on natural and medical science; but before the younger St. Hilaire (who has largely profited by his father's labours) undertook the task of collecting them, there existed no modern work which professed to give a complete and separate account of the various anomalies of organization, such as might serve as a textbook, and for the purposes of reference, in which all the varieties of monstrosity which have been met with should be recorded, as well as the opinions of different writers on their nature and causes.

Our author thinks that the consideration of the various kinds of monstrosity, with the laws and causes of their formation, should form a distinct branch of science, and should be treated of separately from pathological or general anatomy and physiology, embryology, or zoology; with all of which they have a very close connexion, and together with some of which they have mostly been described. To this particular subject which M. Isidore St. Hilaire has thus isolated from the sciences by which it is surrounded, he has proposed that the name of Teratology* should be given, which he considers preferable to the old denomination of monstrosities, the term which was previously given to all kinds of congenital malformation. Our author's views as to the separate place which Teratology should hold in science are supported by Meckel, who supposes that the various species of monstrous formation compose a series rising by regular gradations, from the natural shape to the most unnatural deformity: and that the intermediate steps are not constituted by single or individual cases, but that every variety of monstrous formation is accurately repeated in other individuals; so that, in fact, a separate and independent kingdom of monsters might be established.

Monstrosities have attracted the attention of philosophers as well as the vulgar in all ages. Among the ancients, Hippocrates, Aristotle, Pliny, Galen, and even Empedocles and Democritus noticed their occurrence and investigated their causes; and these early writers had almost as accurate notions of the nature, and gave as faithful descriptions of monstrous formations, as any of the authors on this subject before the commencement of the eighteenth century. Indeed, the history of monsters, till very lately, was composed of a collection of marvellous tales, inaccurate descriptions, and absurd and superstitious prejudices. This long period of ignorance, with respect to their true nature, may be called the fabulous period in the history of the science, and cannot be said to have terminated before the time of Ambrose Paré. A few authentic and interesting cases, it is true, had been already recorded; but these were only rare exceptions, which attracted little attention, except when some author tried to give a new and ridiculous explanation of them, derived from the fanciful ideas which were then exclusively prevalent. In fact, monsters were regarded by the writers of the seventeenth century as by those of preceding ages, as prodigies and sports of nature, arising from supernatural or unnatural causes.

After the fabulous, succeeded what St. Hilaire has called the positive period in the history of anomalies; it comprises about the first half of the eighteenth century. Evident progress now commenced, and facts were correctly observed, though still often explained on false principles. The most celebrated authors of this age on teratology were found among the members of the French Academy. Méry, Duverney, Winslow, Lémery, and Littre may be particularly mentioned. In the works of these great men, we not only find numerous facts accurately observed and described, but many judicious remarks and violent attacks against ancient prejudices. In place of those explanations of the phenomena of monstrosity, which were admitted by the superstition of the preceding period, they endeavoured to substitute scientific and reasonable theories. The causes of monstrosity particularly excited attention; and though many errors were fallen into, for want of the support of a sufficient number of facts, yet it was discovered that one of the greatest difficulties was involved in the question, whether monsters were formed so originally, or whether the monstrosity was accidentally acquired. A very long and able controversy was carried on concerning this point between Lémery and Winslow, the former of whom contended that monstrosities were formed or arose during the growth of the embryo; and modern discoveries in embryology have shown that he was correct, though his rival, who held that the germs were originally monstrous, was considered to have triumphed at the time.

The labours of these celebrated academicians conducted the science to its last epoch, which may be denominated the scientific, and which extends from the middle of the eighteenth century to the present time. It may be divided into many periods; and it will be seen that a vast difference exists between the state of teratology at its commencement and end, owing to the rapid progress which science has made. Haller may be said to have commenced this era, though Morgagni had previously corrected several erroneous opinions respecting the nature and causes of monstrous formations. Haller, in his treatise De monstris, collected all the facts relating to this subject which were recorded by his contemporaries and predecessors, submitted them to a judicious analysis, and deduced from them several conclusions eminently calculated to promote the advancement of this study. Haller, however, fell into some fundamental errors, the most important of which was that respecting the mode of the development of the embryo. He supposed (and his theory prevailed till very lately, and is now partly entertained by some physiologists,) that the development of the organs of the foetus was centrifugal, or that the heart, brain, spinal cord, &c. were formed before the vessels and nerves which were gradually developed from them. This theory, as we shall presently show, is contrary to those laws of formation by which the greater number of anomalies are explained by our author and other teratologists.

The rapid advances which have led to the present state of this department of science are owing to the indefatigable researches of modern anatomists. The study of general and comparative anatomy led the way to the true method of investigation, viz. that of comparing adult man to the embryo, and various animals to man, both in the adult and foetal states. This comparison has given rise to two new methods of investigation, which are now almost universally recognized in the science of anatomy. One discloses the true laws of organic formations; the other embraces the general facts of the structure of animal bodies, considered in all ages and all species. Both of these methods reveal to us important knowledge concerning the composition of organs: the one plan assists us in learning the mode of their formation; and the other decomposes them by a learned analysis, and shows us the elements, everywhere identical, disposed according to invariable rules. Embryology is thus placed upon its true basis, and philosophical anatomy created. Among those naturalists to whom we are indebted for these researches, we may particularly enumerate Geoffroy St. Hilaire (the father of our author) and M. Serres in France, and Frederic Meckel and Tiedemann in Germany.

The various species of monstrous formations have been referred to three classes, viz.

1. Anomalies which arise from arrest of formation or development, in which various parts are found either imperfectly formed or altogether deficient.

2. Anomalies from excess of formation or development, in which some organs exceed their natural limits either in size or number.

3. Anomalies which result neither from arrest nor excess of formation and development, but in which the formative process seems to have been simply perverted, thus producing various modifications in the direction and situation of organs. In this class M. Isidore St. Hilaire includes the entire group of compound monstrosities, which result from the junction or fusion of two or more separate individuals. These have generally been referred to one of the previous classes.

The explanation of these different varieties of organization, or the laws of anomalies, must be derived from the general laws or principles of organization, which the study of philosophical anatomy and embryology have revealed; and, before proceeding to the consideration of the different varieties of monsters, we shall briefly mention the most interesting of these laws, and explain the manner in which they elucidate the different classes of monstrosities.

1. The first and most important is the law of unity of organic composition.

One great principle reigns over the whole of zoological science, that there is a unity of plan in the animal kingdom. Philosophical anatomy has shown us that the organs of animals are composed of materials which are always essentially the same, and which are combined according to definite rules; and that curious and unexpected analogies often exist between beings placed at the opposite extremities of the scale. If we admit the existence of a distinct and peculiar plan of organization for each species, or even in different families, we only obtain partial views, and the science will be reduced to the sterile observation of facts, without reciprocal connexion, rational analogies, or possible consequences. If, on the contrary, we elevate our ideas to the conception of a unity of plan pervading the whole animal kingdom, we shall only see in the multitude of beings which compose the animal series, the innumerable parts of one immense whole, the infinite varieties of one and the same type.

If we apply to the solution of the difficulties which this subject presents, the theory of inequalities of formation and development, we shall find it equally applicable to zoology as to teratology; and the fundamental truth will be apparent, that one or more metamorphoses, to a greater or less extent, sometimes consisting merely in a simple change in the mode of evolution of an organ, will explain all those varieties of form and structure which at the first aspect seem to arise from essential differences in the formative process.

The series of species in the animal kingdom seems to be parallel with the series or stages of formation or development in any individual being, or, in fact, with the series of ages in that being; and the facts of one are reciprocally connected with and explain those of the other. The connexion between teratology and zoology is now seen. The theory of inequality of formation and development relates both to the series of ages in the embryo and the series of zoological species, as well as to the series of monstrosities: it shows the parallel relation between the first and second as well as between the first and third; and by the same laws the series of zoological species and monstrous cases are necessarily analogous and parallel to each other. Thus, in an abstract point of view, all the differences between beings either normal or abnormal may be embraced in the same considerations and referred to the same formulae: as, for instance,—the inferior beings are, as it were, the permanent embryos of animals higher in the scale; and, reciprocally, the superior beings, before they arrived at the definite forms which characterize them, have transitorily offered those of the lower animals. This must not be taken, however, quite literally; for the resemblance or analogy is only seen between individual organs, not entire beings.

By this law of unity of type in the formation of animals (which has been so fully exposed in the works of the elder St. Hilaire, Meckel, and Serres,) may be explained the resemblances which have so often been observed between the anomalous states of one species and the natural form of another. Every animal in whom there has been arrest of development should realize in some of its organs the conditions met with among the inferior classes. Excess of development, on the contrary, should cause a resemblance between the animal which is the subject of it and some of the beings higher in the scale. Many examples of monstrosity have been brought forward in support of this theory, and we may briefly state a few of them. The most numerous cases are those in which the higher animals by arrest of development present the characters which are natural to some inferior species. Thus man, when affected with monstrosity, often has a marked resemblance in some characters with different mammalia, as by the persistence of the tail,[i] and by many anomalies in form either of the limbs, body, or head. Thus, by the existence of a cloaca, labial fissure, duplicity of the uterus, smallness of the brain, and absence or imperfect state of the convolutions, the malformed human foetus presents characters which are all found existing naturally in various species of rodentia, as the beaver, &c.

In some monsters there has been found bifurcation of the glans penis or clitoris, and two vaginae, a disposition of parts existing normally among marsupial animals. By imperforation of the vulva, and a separate termination by distinct orifices, of the sexual and urinary organs, with imperfect development of the eyes, the genus called aspalasomus and other monsters realize in man those organic conditions, which in the normal state distinguish the mole and some other insectivora from all other mammalia. In the genus of monsters, phocomeles, the limbs are shortened, the hands and feet appearing to exist alone, and to be inserted immediately on the trunk, as in the seals and the herbivorous cetacea. In the rare monster, ectromeles, the limbs are nearly or altogether deficient, as in the ordinary cetacea.[ii]

We may also often observe some of the conditions of animals still lower in the scale, realized in human monsters; thus, there may be a rudimentary state of the palatine arch, as in fishes; imperfect development of the diaphragm, as in all oviparous animals; a communication between the different cavities of the heart, as in reptiles; an absence of the brain and spinal marrow; and a nervous system composed only of ganglions and nervous filaments, as in the articulated animals.[iii]

Although the cases are much more rare in which the inferior animals resemble the higher, from excess of development,[iv] yet many instances of this kind have been met with. St. Hilaire has seen several individuals among the carnivora in which the tail has disappeared, and the spinal marrow has ascended in the vertebral canal, as it does in man and the most highly-organized quadrumana. This anomaly also realizes the conditions met with in some animals much lower in the series, as the anourous batrachians or frogs, where there is a continuance or excess of the process of development in the change from the tadpole to the perfect animal.

The possibility of referring the various species of monsters to a common type is a necessary and easy deduction,—in fact, an indispensable conclusion to be drawn from the theory of the unity of organic composition. When we admit that the entire classes of the animal kingdom are established upon one and the same plan, it becomes absurd to allow the existence of many types in one family. From the natural relation which exists also between the different degrees of monstrosity and the links in the animal chain results a complete demonstration that monstrosity is not a blind disorder springing from freaks of nature, but a particular class governed by constant and precise rules, and capable of being systematically divided into definite tribes and genera. The elder St. Hilaire, however, is disposed to consider each individual monster as constituting in itself a distinct species; and he does not agree with Meckel, that every variety of monstrous formation is accurately repeated in other individuals.

2. The second law which we shall mention as being closely connected with teratology is one of the fundamental principles of embryology: the basis, in fact, upon which that science rests, viz., that no organs originally preexist in the ovum, but are all formed at various periods of its growth. Necessarily very minute and simple at the time of their early origin, the different organs afterwards pass through a series of changes in the process of development. These changes are far from being equal either in number or importance, whether we compare together the same organ in different beings, or different organs in the same being; so that, when arrived at their definitive or permanent state, some have passed through a greater number of phases, and have departed much more from their primitive conditions than others. Such is the normal but not the invariable mode of development: an organ may stop beneath its ordinary degree of perfection, or even be entirely abortive; it may, on the contrary, exceed the natural term of its evolution, and thus will arise the two groups of anomalies, opposite in their conditions of existence, and also in their causes, to which so many of the species of monsters have been referred, viz. arrest and excess of development.

The admission of the law of non-preexistence of organs in the germ is fatal to the doctrine of original monstrosity existing before fecundation: a doctrine conceived by Licetus and the older writers on this subject, but which owed its celebrity to its adoption by Winslow and Haller. It would now have been almost forgotten had not Meckel lately attempted to revive it for the purpose of explaining the occurrence of certain monstrosities, the origin of which cannot be understood in the present state of teratology, such as the retroversion of the abdominal limbs and some other peculiarities of organization, which are constantly associated with the junction of the legs in the monsters named symeles. M. St. Hilaire says that the only argument brought forward by Meckel in support of his hypothesis is the impossibility of finding a satisfactory explanation of these anomalies by the theory of accidental production of monstrosities: this is true in the present state of science; but there is no reason why the obscurity of this case should not one day be cleared up, like many other facts in teratology, which were formerly thought inexplicable, and cited as certain proofs of the original production of monstrosities, but which the ulterior progress of science has discovered to be in support of the inverse theory.

According to the law which admits the formation and not the evolution of organs, monsters from arrest of development may be considered in some respects as permanent embryos: they show us at the termination of intra-uterine life some of their organs in the simple state in which they were first formed; as if nature had stopped in her course for the purpose of allowing us the opportunity of observing her processes.

3. A third law is that of eccentric development. We have already remarked that Haller (and he was followed by all the anatomists of the eighteenth century) considered that the heart was formed before any other organ, and was itself the origin of all the others; that it furnished the principal vascular trunks, which afterwards subdivided into branches more and more minute. In the same manner the nervous trunks were considered to derive their origin from the cerebro-spinal axis, which was said to be first developed, and the larger nerves were afterwards thought to ramify into the minute branches; in other words, all the vessels and nerves, subdividing more and more, proceeded from the central parts of the nervous and vascular systems towards the organs placed on the surface of the body, to which they gave nourishment and life. This theory is denominated that of centrifugal development, and has still many supporters.

The inverse doctrine, that of eccentric or centripetal development, was proposed by M. Serres, and is warmly supported by Geofiroy St. Hilaire and his son: all the laws of teratology proposed by the father and followed by his son in the present work are founded upon it, and by this theory a great number of anomalies are explained. These anatomists say that the vessels and nerves are formed before the heart and nervous centres; they first originate in the superficial organs on the surface of the body, and are gradually developed towards the centre; in support of this opinion it is said that the heart, brain, and spinal cord have all of them been found wanting in different monsters, while the vessels and nerves have never been seen wholly deficient. The large trunks are also found more frequently irregular in their course and distribution than the superficial branches of an artery or nerve, and the contrary should be the case if the development was centrifugal, as it has been observed that those organs which are latest formed are the least constant.

According to the observations of M. Serres, the development of the body commences on the surface of the two lateral halves, each central and single organ being originally double, its right and left portions are at first distinct and separate, and become afterwards united. If by any causes, as arrest of development, the union of these two half-organs is prevented from taking place, if this primitive state of formation becomes permanent, two lateral organs are formed, which may be either entirely distinct or only partially separated, according to the period of formation at which the arrest of development took place. The median labial fissure (often confounded with the lateral fissure or true hare-lip) has been thus explained, as well as fissure of the palate, scrotum, urethra, and spinal fissure or spina bifida, &c. M. Serres also states that the hollow organs situated in the median line are composed originally of two halves; as well as the solid organs; and his observations have been, to a certain extent, confirmed by Dr. Allen Thomson, and others. Thus, according to our author, there are at one period two hearts (this organ is placed in the first instance in the median line), two aortae, two vaginae, uteri, bladders, &c. These organs are considered to pass through three successive stages in the process of development: in the first they are completely double, and the two portions quite separate; in the next stage they approach and unite in the median line, the two inner walls being applied against each other, and at the third period they become definitely fused, the inner walls being removed, and all traces of separation lost. If by arrest of development the second stage of formation becomes permanent, the inner walls of the primitive organs which unite together and form naturally a temporary septum are not removed, and the organ is intersected by a longitudinal partition. Such an anomaly is sometimes met with in the human subject, affecting the vagina and uterus, and realizing the natural conditions of the sexual organs in some marsupial animals.

Another fact which is dependent upon the law of centripetal development is the greater constancy of form in those organs which are of early formation than in those later developed. When any cause comes into action at any period of uterine life, by which the process of growth may be disturbed, those organs which are already nearly or fully evolved will necessarily be little or not at all altered; but a very marked change, on the contrary, may be effected in those parts which are very imperfectly developed, or whose formation has not even commenced. In the latter case complete atrophy may be effected.

If we add, that in most of the systems of organs the different parts are subordinate in their formation one to another, the second being produced by the first, the third by the second, and so on, we shall see that the suppression of any one of them, without having any influence on those which preceded it, will necessarily cause the complete absence of all those which ought to have followed it in the order of development. The results of observation perfectly confirm these remarks; it has been found that the umbilicus and small intestines are the parts most constant in monsters, and also the organs first formed in the embryo; the spinal cord also is less often wanting than the brain which it precedes, the aorta than the heart, &c. The superficial and lateral parts of the body are also much more constant than the central or medial organs, they often exist when the latter are wanting, and they frequently present a regular conformation when the latter are seriously modified or very incomplete. Many cases may be met with where the different parts or organs have been reduced to their external covering or integument; thus in the monsters named cyclocephali and otocephali, in which the two eyes or ears are in contact, or united in one, the nose is entirely rudimentary, the bones, &c. being deficient, and only the skin remaining, which is sometimes prolonged in the form of a snout or trunk: sometimes one of the abdominal limbs has been found in this rudimentary state, and in some very imperfect monsters the whole being seems to be reduced to the tegumentary covering, inclosing a few unconnected parts, as bones, vessels, &c.

[i] In the early stages of formation of the human fetus, there naturally exists a prolongation of the coccyx, which is removed by the progress of development.
[ii] It is proper to observe, however, that some of these cases were probably instances of  ‘spontaneous amputation,’ and cannot, therefore, be properly called monsters at all. Rev.
[iii] In the last of these cases, no real analogy can bo said to exist.—Rev.
[iv] These anomalies appear to be more rare, perhaps, than they really are, on account of the much greater number of monstrosities that arc observed and examined in man than among animals.

Dissection and the Artificial Preservation of Bodies

Text from Directions for making anatomical preparations: formed on the basis of Pole, Marjolin and Breschet, and including the new method of Mr. Swan (1831) by Usher Pole.

That a minute knowledge of anatomy is essential to success in the practice of physic and surgery, is an opinion so generally prevalent, that the assertion of it at the present day wears the air of a truism. Every student reads the remark in his books, hears it from his lecturer, sees its force in the clinical rounds of his instructor, and feels it when he commences practice. And if the young practitioner feels the want of anatomical knowledge when he has recently left the dissecting table and the halls of demonstration, how much more sensible must he be of it, after years have elapsed, without affording him an opportunity to refresh his memory by lectures or dissections. To obviate this inconvenience, various modes have been employed for preserving the different organs and textures, in a humid or dry state, to which the practitioner may refer as a substitute for recent dissection and demonstration; with this aim in view, the art of making anatomical preparations has been cultivated with great success and advantage.

The art is of modern invention. Injecting and preparing of the blood vessels certainly could not have been known prior to the discovery of the circulation of the blood, nor have we any description of arterial preparations until the time of Ruysch, a professor of anatomy who died in 1731. His first anatomical museum was sold to Peter the Great, in 1717, and many specimens belonging to it, as well as a great number made subsequently, are still in a good state of preservation. His manner of preparing wet specimens,—of injecting the blood vessels, and of preserving the flexibility of dried preparations, although he professed to have disclosed it, is supposed to have perished with him, since no one has yet succeeded in imitations that can be compared with those made by himself.

Still however the common process for making and preserving injected preparations bears the name of Ruysch, and to this process many additions and improvements have been made by Dumeril, Breschet, Hunter, Pole, Marjolin, Charles Bell, Cloquet, Swan and some others, besides several valuable treatises on the art of injecting the lymphatics, and numerous facts and observations, are contained in periodical publications. The substance of the following sheets, is principally drawn from the above writers, but chiefly from Pole, to which are added, such facts as I could glean from some of the best practical anatomists of this country, and such observations as I have been able to collect during a year passed in the medical schools of Europe, and several years devoted to practical anatomy in this country.

That a work like the present is wanted, appears evident from the fact, that several teachers of anatomy have contemplated publishing an edition of Pole, notwithstanding its numerous imperfections. I should however not have commenced the present work, had that of Pole been in circulation in this country. The few copies to be found are imported, and I have several times been at pains to order copies for my friends from London.

Such a work will, I am confident, be acceptable to students from the country, as by following its directions, they will be able to preserve the dissections made at medical schools, as memorials of their industry, and for reference in their future practice. Even in cities, where subjects are easily obtained and dissected, and where public demonstrations are frequent, a student feels reluctant to destroy a fine piece of dissection that has cost him long protracted labour and pains to finish, although he may expect to derive but little advantage from its preservation; but in the country, where such specimens are the best, if not the only means he can enjoy for refreshing his memory, they possess a real and practical value; for, with the exception of Massachusetts, whose legislature has nobly raised its voice in favour of practical anatomy, prejudice and legal impediments it is to be feared will long exist against its prosecution throughout the union, and especially in our country towns.



The extremes of heat and cold are unfavourable for dissections and making preparations, heat being the season for insects and rapid putrefaction, and* cold congeals the subject, the subsequent thawing of which is attended with loss of time, hastens decomposition, and always impairs the beauty of the preparations. But the objections to midwinter are removed where the accommodations are such as to moderate the intensity of cold. The late autumnal and early spring months are, however, decidedly preferable for long continued dissections; and it is well known to those who are conversant with the business, that for preserving subjects from decomposition, spring at the same temperature, is more favorable than autumn. These remarks however, refer to preparations requiring long and patient dissection; for other kinds, as macerated and corroded, the summer season may be even preferable.


Besides the diseases that may proceed from contagious affections of dead bodies and which every anatomist will know how to avoid, there are two pertaining to a dissecting room that require some notice. One of them is derangement of the stomach, sometimes attended with fever, and which is probably occasioned by putrid inhalations, perhaps by errors in diet and long exposure to cold, and is more common to ardent beginners; the other is extensive and severe inflammation from slight wounds of the fingers, and absorption of poison from the subject. B

The former affection may be prevented, first, by proper attention to diet, never visiting nor remaining in the dissecting room with an empty stomach ; by nutritious well seasoned food and considerable exercise of the body in the open air, and by obviating a costive habit. Secondly, by attention to the air of the room both as respects temperature and cleanliness. The large cavities of a subject when cleared of their viscera may be sponged with clean water and sprinkled with chlorate of lime and the room freely ventilated.—When the emanations are very putrid and offensive, they may be entirely removed by a fumigating mixture like the following:

.Black oxide of manganese and common salt pulverised, equal parts, by weight, to which add sulphuric acid, diluted with three parts of water in a leaden or earthen vessel. Close the dissecting room, leaving the mixture in the centre of it in the evening, and by morning, the putrid smell will be entirely removed.

Attention should also be paid to cleanliness of person. An apron with sleeves to it, made of shalloon, or brown linen, may be worn, and when this is wanting, a suitable coat to put on and off on entering and leaving the room may be substituted.

When the symptoms of gastric disturbance which I have mentioned appear, the dissection should be suspended, for a day or two, and an active cathartic administered.

The other affection arising from wounds of the fingers is of a more serious character. Chambar, Percy, Duncan, and Shaw, have each written treatises of some length on such wounds, from which I shall draw such facts as are most material to be known. The effects of such wounds, Mr. Duncan and Mr. Shaw, think, may be classed under two heads, forming cases which differ essentially from each other. The one is attended with immediate danger, and is generally the consequence of examining a body a few hours after death ; and proceeds with more certainty, from dissection of the bodies of persons who have died with inflammation of some of the serous membranes. The other cases are more frequent, and less dangerous, and they occur more in common dissections, and particularly, in preparing bones or ligaments after long maceration. The symptoms attending this last kind of wound are the following :—the finger being scratched or pricked in the morning; there is not much pain at the time, but it gradually increases towards evening; a little uneasiness is felt in the axilla, and next morning red lines can be perceived running up the arm. The finger is now excessively painful; there are often slight rigors, and general uneasiness ; the countenance is anxious, tongue sometimes furred, and head-ache; but there is not much fever. The finger then becomes rapidly swollen and livid, so as to call for immediate attention, and the general system still more and more affected.

In respect to the first, or malignant kind, which is more likely to occur from examining a body that has died from peritonitis, in the form of hernia and puerperal fever; or from pleurisy, there will, in five or six hours after receiving a scratch or puncture be a small pimple, or a blush of red. If the case proceeds in the usual manner, there will probably be a darting pain up the arm, which seems to fix more particularly in the shoulder or side of the chest. Within fourteen hours, the patient is very ill; he suffers a great deal of pain, and is anxious and alarmed. Red lines may generally be perceived running from the hand towards the axilla, but it sometimes happens that there are no marks on the arm, nor even on the finger. Indeed, the affection of the finger is occasionally so slight, "that it is neglected, and the patient refers all his suffering to the shoulder and chest. Vessications often appear, and the case may end in desquamation of the cuticle, or in suppuration with extensive sloughing, and a discharge of fetid matter, and in many instances, it proves fatal."

The local treatment of both kinds of the above mentioned wounds, should be the same, at the moment they are inflicted. It consists in applying to the wound a drop of strong mineral acid or of caustic ;—the French prefer liquid muriate of antimony. But after this has been neglected, and absorption has taken place, indicated by pain, &c. such applications will be of no avail, and may aggravate inflammation. The best applications will then be of the soothing kind. Mr. Shaw recommends lint soaked in equal parts of Goulard's extract and laudanum, applied round the finger and along the arm. Emolient cataplasms are also recommended, but their weight gives pain and uneasiness. The French recommend leeches to the part.

According to the same authors, the general treatment should be active aperients, such as rhubarb and jalap, with a little calomel, and to keep the patient at first almost in a state of intoxication, by laudanum and porter. Bleeding, although the pulse be much accelerated, he condemns.

Should any abrasion or sore previously exist on the fingers of the dissector, the utmost care should be taken to shield it from the contact of the dead body, by proper dressing and a slip of bladder bound over it.


This must, of course, vary according to the kind of preparation intended to be made. For a perfect skeleton, the subject should be near, or a little passed, middle age, for if younger, the bones are not so fully developed, and in old age they contain oil, which is constantly appearing upon their surface. For exhibiting osteogeny, choose the bones of a foetus; and for showing the vascularity of bones with minute injection, the bones of a young child are preferable ;—To make a preparation of the bones of the head separately, choose the bones of a young subject, before the age of puberty, and for the ossiculae of the ear, a child from birth to one or two years. The tympanum should here be preserved on one side, and partially removed on the other, taking care to preserve its centre, where the maleus is attached. For exhibiting the labyrinth by filing into the petrous portion, the temporal bone of an adult will be best. For exhibiting the deciduous and permanent teeth, choose the head of a child from five to eight years old, and file away the alveolar covering of the front teeth.

To dissect and study the muscles, choose a robust, full grown subject that has died suddenly, and a male in preference to a female. For making dry preparations of the muscles, take a subject of a strong muscular frame, whose death was occasioned by a short, but not putrid disease. Great corpulency, as well as great leanness, and dropsical subjects, are for obvious reasons unsuitable.

For dissecting and studying the arteries and veins, choose an adult that is neither very plethoric nor very lean. For making a dry preparation of the blood-vessels of an entire body, an emaciated subject, from two to fourteen years is preferable, as being more easily dissected and dried, and more conveniently handled, and less likely to become greasy after it is varnished :—For a head or extremities, an adult not much beyond middle age, as after this period there will be a constant issuing of fat upon the surface, that will mar the beauty of the preparation; but as the veins are more developed in advanced age, such subjects are best for shewing them upon the head. For minute injection, a full grown foetus is best, and may at the same time serve for exhibiting the foetal circulation, and for making many handsome preparations, to be hereafter described.

For a wet or dry preparation of the cerebral nerves, choose an adult emaciated subject, of almost any age;— but for the whole nervous system, a small emaciated subject, as it can be more conveniently preserved in spirit.

For the lymphatics choose a full grown dropsical subject.


Whatever be the kind of subject that has fallen into the hands of the student, and whatever may be his purpose as to its final destination, he should first perform such little operations upon it, as can be done without injuring it for injecting, and which he may be desirous of performing with dexterity upon the living body; such as introducing the catheter and probing ;—passing a fine wire into the puncta lachrymalia, and introducing a probe from the lachrymal sack through the nasal duct;—pinching up the tunica conjunctiva with a pair of small forceps and clipping it with scissors, as is often required for severe opthalmia. After the subject is injected, he may take up the various arteries, as the carotid, subclavian, axillary, external iliac, and those of the extremities. He may also operate for hare-lip, perform bronchotomy, &c.


The tendency of the brain and other viscera of the large cavities to rapid putrefaction, requires their early removal. The brain mollifies so soon, that if the student intends examining it minutely, or to make a wet preparation of it, no time is to be lost by delaying the undertaking.

The next organs to be examined and removed, are, the abdominal viscera, as their presence hastens decomposition. For this purpose make a crucial incision from the sternum to the pubis, and cross it with another near the umbilicus. In this way the viscera are more easily examined and removed, but the abdominal muscles are in some measure destroyed for dissection. Such however is the intricacy of this piece of dissection, that the student will hardly undertake it at first; and the parts most interesting to the surgical pupil, as the abdominal ring and surrounding ligaments, are uninjured by it. The viscera are to be examined in their natural situation, and then after passing a ligature round the O3sophagus below the diaphragm, and round the rectum, they are to be removed, by dividing the suspensory ligament of the liver, turning it down from the diaphragm, dividing the oesophagus above the ligature, and raising the stomach, spleen and pancreas, leaving the branches of the coeliac and mesenteric arteries as long as practicable. The viscera may be subsequently examined, and made into separate preparations, as hereafter directed.

The chest, it is presumed, has already been opened for the purpose of injecting the subject, if not, proceed as directed for injecting the arteries, and remove such organs as are intended not to be preserved in connexion with the walls of the thorax.

The contents of the pelvis are to be removed, by dissecting the kidneys and passing them downward, or, by dividing the ureters, and dissecting round the several organs down to the sphincter ani. But if it is intended to preserve these organs in connexion with the pelvis ; the rectum is to be cleared and stuffed with curled hair, or oiled wool.

The subject may now be dissected entire, or it may be divided among a class of four or five persons.


Before he commences dissections, the student is presumed to be well acquainted with the skeleton. He is to begin his work by making an incision through the integuments, down to the muscles of each limb, commencing it near the trunk and extending it along in the direction of the large muscles. The limb or part dissected should be so placed as to keep the fibres of the muscles in a state of gentle extension. The integuments are to be raised from the muscles, by drawing them aside, and laying the edge of the knife obliquely upon and in direction of the fibres, in order that all cellular substance may be removed without dividing them. The knife may be held in the fingers like a pen, and moved by them, rather than with the wrist or arm. After removing the integuments over muscles, all the cellular substance between them is to be dissected out, taking care not to divide the large nerves or blood-vessels, or such of their branches as are interesting in surgery. When the superficial layer of muscles is fairly cleared of adipose substance, they may be raised or turned aside with hooks, or divided in the middle and turned back, for the purpose of exposing the deep-seated ones for dissection. The integuments ,are to be raised from the muscles no farther at a time than is necessary for the present dissection, and should afterwards be replaced upon the part, to keep it from drying and to protect it from dust; and in warm weather the whole should be covered during the interim of dissection with a wet cloth, to keep it cool by evaporation.

It should be the object of the student to examine the muscles separately and in classes, according to their respective offices; to study their situation and direction with respect to the arteries and nerves, and other parts that are concerned in surgery. If not intended to be preserved, the muscles may after full dissection be removed, and the ligaments and structure of the joints examined, before the bones are immersed for maceration.

The student will hardly find it advantageous to make dry preparations of the muscles alone. They require as much attention, and are attended with as great expense, as when prepared with the blood-vessels, and unless he adopts the method of Mr. Swan hereafter described they will change in colour and size so much by drying, as to represent a recent dissection less satisfactorily than good plates.


The comparative value of the two kinds of injection depends somewhat upon the kind of preparation intended to be made. For corroded preparations the cold injection is entirely unsuitable. For wet preparations it is immaterial which kind is used, excepting that the warm kind is attended with loss of time and expense. For common dissections, the cold injection is in most respects preferable, not only on account of the trouble and expense saved in heating the subject, and its not heating and crisping the aorta to the risk of its strength, but also for its withstanding the greatest heat of summer, when the warm kind is apt to liquefy and ooze out from the orifices of divided branches. There is, however, a greater smoothness of the vessels that have been filled with the warm kind, which is pleasing to the eye of an anatomist. In respect to fineness, they will, either of them, if properly conducted, answer every purpose for surgical reference, though beyond this, I have found the cold injection succeed better than the warm, especially for filling vessels of the hollow organs, and of the membranes of the large cavities. Therefore as respects utility and convenience I should, except for corroded preparations, prefer the cold injection.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Research Companion to Monsters and the Monstrous

The Ashgate Research Companion to Monsters and the Monstrous

Edited by Asa Simon Mittman, California State University, Chico, USA; Peter Dendle, Pennsylvania State University, Mont Alto, USA

“The field of monster studies has grown significantly over the past few years and this companion provides a comprehensive guide to the study of monsters and the monstrous from historical, regional and thematic perspectives. The collection reflects the truly multi-disciplinary nature of monster studies, bringing in scholars from literature, art history, religious studies, history, classics, and cultural and media studies. The companion will offer scholars and graduate students the first comprehensive and authoritative review of this emergent field.” (Publisher Blurb)


Foreword, John Block Friedman;

Introduction: the impact of monsters and monster studies, Asa Simon Mittman;

Part I History of Monstrosity:

The monstrous Caribbean, Persephone Braham;

The unlucky, the bad and the ugly: categories of monstrosity from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, Surekha Davies;

Beauteous beast: the water deity Mami Wata in Africa, Henry John Drewal;

Rejecting and embracing the monstrous in Ancient Greece and Rome, D. Felton;

Early modern past to postmodern future: changing discourses of Japanese monsters, Michael Dylan Foster;

On the monstrous in the Islamic visual tradition, Francesca Leoni; Human of the heart: pitiful oni in medieval Japan, Michelle Osterfield Li;

The Maya 'cosmic monster' as a political; and religious symbol, Matthew Looper; Monsters lift the veil: Chinese animal hybrids and processes of transformation, Karin Myhre;

From hideous to hedonist: the changing face of the 19th-century monster, Abigail Lee Six and Hannah Thompson;

Centaurs, satyrs, and cynocephali: medieval scholarly teratology and the question of the human, Karl Steel;

Invisible monsters: vision, horror, and contemporary culture, Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock.

Part II Critical Approaches to Monstrosity:

Posthuman teratology, Patricia MacCormack;

Monstrous sexuality: variations on the vagina dentata, Sarah Alison Miller;
Postcolonial monsters: a conversation with Partha Mitter, Partha Mitter with Asa Simon Mittman and Peter Dendle;

Monstrous gender: geographies of ambiguity, Dana Oswald; Monstrosity and race in the late Middle Ages, Debra Higgs Strickland;

Hic sunt dracones: the geography and cartography of monsters, Chet van Duzer;

Conclusion: monsters in the 21st century: the preternatural in an age of scientific consensus, Peter J. Dendle;

Postscript: the promise of monsters, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen;

Bibliography; Index.

About the Editors:

Asa Simon Mittman is Associate Professor, Department of Art and Art History, California State University, Chico, USA and Peter Dendle is Associate Professor, Department of English, Pennsylvania State University, Mont Alto, USA


 'This volume awakens the monster as an academic topic. Combining John Block Friedman's historical-literary approach with Jeffrey J. Cohen's theoretical concerns, Asa Simon Mittman and Peter Dendle have marshaled chapters that comprise a seminal work for everyone interested in the monstrous. Wide-ranging chapters work through various historical and geographic views of monstrosity, from the African Mami Wata to Pokemon. Theoretical chapters consider contemporary views of what a monster is and why we care about them as we do. Taken together, the essays in The Ashgate Research Companion to Monsters and the Monstrous reveal that monsters appear in every culture and haunt each of us in different ways, or as Mittman says, the monstrous calls into question our (their, anyone's) epistemological worldview, highlights its fragmentary and inadequate nature, and thereby asks us … to acknowledge the failures of our systems of categorization.' (David Sprunger, Concordia College, Minnesota, USA)

'An impressively broad and thoughtful collection of the ways in which many cultures, ancient and modern, have used monsters to think about what it means to be human. Lavishly illustrated and ambitious in scope, this book enlarges the reader's imagination.' (Professor Lorraine Daston, Director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Germany)

  • Imprint: Ashgate
  • Illustrations: includes 78 b&w illustrations
  • Published: April 2012
  • Format: 244 x 169 mm
  • Extent: 598 pages
  • Binding: Hardback
  • ISBN: 978-1-4094-0754-6
  • Price £90

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Mary Wollstonecraft's Monstrous Men, Feminism and Teratology

Mary Wollstonecraft on Monstrous Men, Greek Beauty, and Contemporary Deformity:

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) was an early campaigner for the rights of women and was sympathetic to radical ideas current at the time of the American and French revolution. Her critique of male prerogative and power, ranging from male monarchs to husbands and fathers as domestic tyrants is elegantly argued. She provides a devastating account of a society dominated by men.

Today, tyrants are still ruling many countries such as Syria, and women's rights (if they exist at all) are everywhere under threat. Accordingly, Wollstonecraft's plea for the liberation of women remains a highly relevant project.

There is a strand in her thought (developed further in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in 1818) that I am calling monstrous feminism. On this view, men comprise a system of teratology; they operate a monstrous economy in which their power circulates and supports their privileges.

Here are some quotations and comments which I have selected from her book most famous book A Vindicaton of the the Rights of Woman (1792)

In the first, she discusses the notion that the ideal expressed in art is not a reflection of an observed reality, but rather a selection of parts that compose the whole:

I do not forget the popular opinion, that the Grecian statues were not modelled after nature. I mean, not according to the proportions of a particular man; but that beautiful limbs and features were selected from various bodies to form an harmonious whole. This might, in some degree, be true. The fine ideal picture of an exalted imagination might be superior to the materials which the painter found in nature, and thus it might with propriety be termed rather the model of mankind than of a man. It was not, however, the mechanical selection of limbs and features, but the ebullition of an heated fancy that burst forth; and the fine senses and enlarged understanding of the artist selected the solid matter, which he drew into this glowing focus.

It is the conditions of society that lead to deformity, and which corrupt an original source:

I observed that it was not mechanical, because a whole was produced—a model of that grand simplicity, of those concurring energies, which arrest our attention and command our reverence. For only insipid lifeless beauty is produced by a servile copy of even beautiful nature. Yet, independent of these observations, I believe, that the human form must have been far more beautiful than it is at present, because extreme indolence, barbarous ligatures, and many causes, which forcibly act on it, in our luxurious state of society, did not retard its expansion, or render it deformed.


Civilization is presented as a male mode that conceals the underlying monstrosity at its core:

Besides, nothing can be so prejudicial to the morals of the inhabitants of country towns, as the occasional residence of a set of idle superficial young men, whose only occupation is gallantry, and whose polished manners render vice more dangerous, by concealing its deformity under gay ornamental drapery. An air of fashion, which is but a badge of slavery, and proves that the soul has not a strong individual character, awes simple country people into an imitation of the vices, when they cannot catch the slippery graces of politeness.


In traditional terms vice and corruption also correspond to a type of deformity

Going back to first principles, vice skulks, with all its native deformity, from close investigation; but a set of shallow reasoners are always exclaiming that these arguments prove too much, and that a measure rotten at the core may be expedient. Thus expediency is continually contrasted with simple principles, till truth is lost in a mist of words, virtue in forms, and knowledge rendered a sounding nothing, by the specious prejudices that assume its name.


In this example, freak means 'whim' - with an underlying sense of frivolity:

A man of rank or fortune, sure of rising by interest, has nothing to do but to pursue some extravagant freak; whilst the needy GENTLEMAN, who is to rise, as the phrase turns, by his merit, becomes a servile parasite or vile pander.


Thus, as wars, agriculture, commerce, and literature, expands the mind, despots are compelled, to make covert corruption hold fast the power which was formerly snatched by open force.* And this baneful lurking gangrene is most quickly spread by luxury and superstition, the sure dregs of ambition. The indolent puppet of a court first becomes a luxurious monster, or fastidious sensualist, and then makes the contagion which his unnatural state spreads, the instrument of tyranny.

It is the pestiferous purple which renders the progress of civilization a curse, and warps the understanding, till men of sensibility doubt whether the expansion of intellect produces a greater portion of happiness or misery.
* Men of abilities scatter seeds that grow up, and have a great influence on the forming opinion; and when once the public opinion preponderates, through the exertion of reason, the overthrow of arbitrary power is not very distant.


This argument branches into various ramifications. Birth, riches, and every intrinsic advantage that exalt a man above his fellows, without any mental exertion, sink him in reality below them. In proportion to his weakness, he is played upon by designing men, till the bloated monster has lost all traces of humanity. And that tribes of men, like flocks of sheep, should quietly follow such a leader, is a solecism that only a desire of present enjoyment and narrowness of understanding can solve. Educated in slavish dependence, and enervated by luxury and sloth, where shall we find men who will stand forth to assert the rights of man; or claim the privilege of moral beings, who should have but one road to excellence? Slavery to monarchs and ministers, which the world will be long in freeing itself from, and whose deadly grasp stops the progress of the human mind, is not yet abolished.

Let not men then in the pride of power, use the same arguments that tyrannic kings and venal ministers have used, and fallaciously assert, that woman ought to be subjected because she has always been so

As to the argument respecting the subjection in which the sex has ever been held, it retorts on man. The many have always been enthralled by the few; and, monsters who have scarcely shown any discernment of human excellence, have tyrannized over thousands of their fellow creatures. Why have men of superior endowments submitted to such degradation? For, is it not universally acknowledged that kings, viewed collectively, have ever been inferior, in abilities and virtue, to the same number of men taken from the common mass of mankind—yet, have they not, and are they not still treated with a degree of reverence, that is an insult to reason?


Such a woman is not a more irrational monster than some of the Roman emperors, who were depraved by lawless power. Yet, since kings have been more under the restraint of law, and the curb, however weak, of honour, the records of history are not filled with such unnatural instances of folly and cruelty, nor does the despotism that kills virtue and genius in the bud, hover over Europe with that destructive blast which desolates Turkey, and renders the men, as well as the soil unfruitful.

Women are every where in this deplorable state; for, in order to preserve their innocence, as ignorance is courteously termed, truth is hidden from them, and they are made to assume an artificial character before their faculties have acquired any strength. Taught from their infancy, that beauty is woman's sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and, roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison.

In life, on the contrary, as we gradually discover the imperfections of our nature, we discover virtues, and various circumstances attach us to our fellow creatures, when we mix with them, and view the same objects, that are never thought of in acquiring a hasty unnatural knowledge of the world. We see a folly swell into a vice, by almost imperceptible degrees, and pity while we blame; but, if the hideous monster burst suddenly on our sight, fear and disgust rendering us more severe than man ought to be, might lead us with blind zeal to usurp the character of omnipotence, and denounce damnation on our fellow mortals, forgetting that we cannot read the heart, and that we have seeds of the same vices lurking in our own.